On “Free,” “Attention” and Other Digital Media Buzz Words

August 24, 2009

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around Chris Anderson’s book “Free” (New Yorker review by Malcolm Gladwell.)

Lots of fancy language is flying around.  Things like “radical price” and “economics of abundance” and “massive attention surplus.”

A lot of good points are being made (and I love talking about this stuff).  However, the concepts are simpler (and more accessible) than they sound.

The buzz word free boil down:

1.  It’s very cheap to distribute information because of the Internet.

2. Because distribution is cheap, there is not a lot more floating around.

3. Because there is so much information, people generally won’t pay for it.  Information has become a commodity.  It’s like air.  It’s everywhere.

4. All of this information has created a problem: we are overwhelmed.  There is too much.

5. Old line media companies that relied on the cost of distribution to support high advertising rates, need to DRAMATICALLY rethink things.

In my opinion, the winners will be those who most effectively:

1. Create unique information (which will likely appeal to niche audiences);

2. Provide ways for people to filter information [Current ways to filter information include: search, sharing via social networks like Facebook, technology based filters, and human editors]; and/or

3. Create advertising that is so targeted and relevant that it feels like content.

Entrepreneurs (as opposed to economists) should focus on these simple concepts.  Quit talking about things like the attention economy.

The issues really aren’t as complicated as they sound.  Making it work is a different story.

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